I had been thinking of ideas to entertain our Granddaughters over the summer and this seemed like a wonderful idea.
I was at the dairy farm for Morgan's pre-school field trip. The sign read "Get a jump-start to agriculture leadership. Students will learn general information about common farm animals including: horses, chickens, cows & goats. This is a great opportunity to see if your child is interested in the agriculture field of study, and get a taste of true farm life".
While we waited for the tour to begin, I sat outside in the mid-morning sunshine ... listening to the sound of chickens and children. I thought of the field trips I went on back in Ohio when my own children were small.
Oh...the fragrances...the manure, the hay, the green fields. It was the smell of the farm. It was always fun to watch the children stand open-mouthed with amazement as large black and white cows lumbered from green fields, jostling for their places in the milking parlor. The stainless steel gleamed. The wet cement and disinfectant scents mingled in the air to create an agricultural perfume that was somehow pleasing in its sweet intricacy.
My memories were interrupted when "Farmer" Jason told us the tour was starting. On our way in the door, I grabbed a flyer so I could call and sign the girls up for the farm classes. I was excited just thinking about how excited they would be.
We gathered in a large room and sat on hay bales while "Farmer" Jason gave us his farm spiel. I was a bit puzzled when he showed us some branches of cotton. He went on to explain that the cows on the farm were fed with cotton seeds. He then showed us a sawdust like substance that was the refuse from a pasta plant. He assured the children that the cows really liked both of these things and ate 50 pounds of them each and every day. We went outside and got on a hay wagon. "Farmer" Bob then proceeded to tell us about the holding pens while the tractor pulled us around. I was puzzled at first. I kept expecting to see green fields gleaming just round the corner. But there were none. There was just a sea of mud and manure...not pleasing in scent...not pleasing in sight.
I asked "Farmer" Bob, "Are these cows ever pastured?" He assured me the cows were happy.
Then "Farmer" Bob explained to the group that the calves were taken away from the "Mommy" cows at birth because they were happier all together with their "friends", I spoke up again. He talked over me and explained how the "babies" had to go away from their "Mommies" or there wouldn't be enough milk to make ice cream!
He did a little rah-rah thing and said "As soon as we get back, we'll all have some ice cream!" while he glared at me.
Oddly, no-one seemed to want to answer my questions about growth hormones or disease either.
And finally one "farmer" helper told me if I was interested in that organic milk stuff I should call a certain dairy...ironically named "Save Your Dairy".
Morgan loved patting the bunnies and feeding the horse and the goat. And I loved watching her happy face light up.
The children were all delighted to be served ice cream made with milk from the dairy's cows, but I declined. I wanted to decline for my Granddaughter as well...but I suspect that might be a battle for another day.
When we left, dusty and tired, Morgan walked with her hand carefully tucked in mine.
I put her securely into her car seat and made sure she was safe. She was happy and chattering about bunnies.
And then I saw a trash bin close by.
I tossed the crumpled up flyer into the bin. If this was "a taste of true farm life", I didn't really want our grandchildren exposed to it.
When I drove out of the crowded parking lot I was blinding for a moment by the sun.
I hesitated briefly before a pause in the traffic allowed me to pull out onto the heavily traveled road.
Though the chatter was entertaining from the back seat I could not shake the feeling that I had really, truly failed to keep this little girl safe.
And I felt saddened.
We stopped at the store to get her a snack. I walked right through the dairy section and got her an organic apple.